Exclusive Excerpt from Get Up
by Reece Pine
Alone? Where’s Nick— Oh. Guy remembered Nick was a country away, if not a dimension, and probably in someone else’s bed by now. They’d split up a month before. In consolation and maybe correlation, Guy’s mind was working just fine after its flare-out at the hut’s front door. He remembered catching planes and a ride from a middle-of-nowhere Canadian town to the barren fringe of Canadian nowhere, and then staggering through a frozen hell until his life depended on the very person he’d come to rescue.
Guy had been foolishly glad he hadn’t printed out the manuscript that Fairbanks’s owner and director, Huw, emailed him. He recalled reading it at home and thinking all it was fit for was kindling, which was all he had wished for earlier in the snow. The memory of his being cold was hardest of all to get a hold on, possibly because it was traumatic, but probably also because right then he was strangely warm. Hot bath warm. Shared bed warm. Afterglow warm… Because…I’m naked?
The assumption he was safe fell away, along with the musty blanket covering his chest as he jolted up in bed in a tiny dark room. He was naked and trapped at the mercy of a supernaturally pretty being in the next room, the son of a ghost, who was himself too much of a vivid apparition and just plain too short to have carried Guy in here. He must have been dragged—and drugged? What was in that coffee to make him overheat like that? And why the hell was he naked?
A dim golden glow from beneath the bed spilled across the wooden floor. Guy hung his head over the side of the thin mattress, half expecting fireflies or a chatty French candelabra or anything else fairy-tale-like. Luckily, there were no monsters—instead a cast-iron pan containing a handful of charcoals sat atop a steel tripod beneath the bed’s metal slats. He had to admit its heating properties were a lot more efficient than a hot water bottle and more romantic, too, lending a candlelit glow to the room. Exposed beams overhead made him feel like Pinocchio inside a ribbed belly, and the marbled grays seen through a small window looked like a paused scene on a black-and-white TV.
He crept off the bed, folding the blankets so they were nowhere near the charcoal bowl, and padded on bare feet to the window. Shards of a thermometer glinted on the outside sill, having shattered from the cold. They displayed a temperature locked perpetually high, mocking his earlier trial by tundra.
His breath clouded in the wan light as he layered on clothing from his suitcase, which was propped by the room’s door. A knitted red woolen sweater was folded on a rickety chair. He unfolded it to see a garish Christmas pattern emblazoned on its front, which he wasn’t sure was meant to be ironically ugly or not. Since De Carli’s son had already no doubt seen his cock at attention, which Nick had called the only warm part of Guy, he figured he shouldn’t be vain, but he really didn’t want to wear it, and really hated knowing better than to reject it. He couldn’t help Cam if he collapsed from hypothermia again.
There’s a reason I’m asking you and no one else. Huw’s voice rang in his near-frostbitten ears. Besides the fact you’ll fit right in in the Arctic. You’re ‘castratingly cold,’ after all, according to Nick’s Facebook.
Even after fourteen years’ friendship, dating back to when De Carli’s books began to ruin Guy for all other fiction, Guy’s former college roommate, Huw, remained oblivious to all but superficially expressed emotions, so Guy had grunted to make his displeasure known. “I’m not cold.”
“You’re a bunny wrapped in an enigma, but me and Campbell need your judgmental stare. Well, he might like the bunny part, too.”
“Campbell and I,” Guy had corrected.
“Great, keep that up, editor.” Huw had scratched the air, making quotes around the last word. “Anyway, Campbell’s probably a Popsicle himself out there, so defrost him with all your actual warmth because I need his book okayed. How often do you get a sure thing in publishing? Never, that’s how often, unless you’ve got, like, George R. R. Martin’s kid’s debut.”
“He’s De Carli’s son.” Guy had hated the comparison. De Carli was better.
Fairbanks had spent eight months wrangling Cam’s debut, only to be served an injunction, lodged by his older sister, who claimed the manuscript was stolen from their father’s estate. Huw had only ever communicated with Cam online, and not thought to connect his common real name with the uncommon phenomenon who had been De Carli. No one had. The publishing grapevine hadn’t heard anything since Cam had been institutionalized for suicidal intent for a month after De Carli’s fatal heart attack two years earlier, then disappeared upon release. Remembering that, Huw figured family bickering over probate wasn’t something to spring on him from afar, especially when the injunction was suppression ordered, making its claim more than a little suspicious.
After eagerly—then less eagerly—skimming Cam’s book, Guy had vouched it wasn’t an authentic De Carli. If the kid had desecrated a stolen draft to pass it off as his own work, he’d done too good a job. Unfortunately, Guy’s fanboy opinion wouldn’t make great testimony, and even he conceded the manuscript bore some similarity with De Carli’s, which could be due to their shared tastes or family history…but maybe not. Huw had convinced him to go covertly to uncover proof in the form of drafts, and judge Cam’s authenticity, too.
In one of his very few interviews, De Carli had said, “My son is a simple boy. He wants for nothing.” Journalists interpreted that as meaning homeschooled Cam had special needs, so hadn’t pried. It surprised Guy to learn Cam had earned a doctorate in ecology last year at the age of twenty-two, mostly completed online, and had then assisted with wildlife projects abroad. The few available scientists Huw had tracked down attested Cam was competent, code for nothing else good to say. In other words, he was probably a precocious little…handful.
That and the kid’s current dubious rabbit search didn’t make for a stellar start to his research career, but was nothing compared to what Cam would face if he was found to have plagiarized his father. It’d destroy not just his career writing books, but also science journal articles that were as dry as the wings of his PhD subject, moths. The articles he’d previously cowritten all conformed to academic templates, so there was no comparison with his fiction, no way to tell if he’d forged the latter.
The chance to escape social circles shared with his ex for the time being was icing on the cake. Nick had liked the mystery of Guy’s mask enough to seduce him, then grown quickly bored of its not melting under his hand. The fact that Guy honestly wasn’t mysterious was a secret he seemed cursed to bear. No matter how many times he assured the Nicks of the world that he really was just that calm, it wasn’t enough, and that was about all that made his blood simmer. To be fair, it wasn’t Nick’s fault that all that made Guy’s heart race was analyzing a good book or an interesting person. The chance to meet De Carli’s son, who was himself a shimmering incubus with a shady past, had Guy almost trembling even before he’d hit the cold.
Exhaling deeply, Guy told himself now to chill, almost wringing a smile from himself as he entered the hut’s main room.